200 Advisers Can’t Bring You Authenticity and Moral Center

It’s easy to mock the various organizations attempting to draft Elizabeth Warren for President. The arguments nearly make themselves: Warren has shown no indication she will run, Hillary Clinton looks more inevitable by the day, and she continues to dominate all her opponents both Republican and Democratic in polling.

But it’s hard to fault progressive organizations for queasiness about the Clinton machine when reading stories like this:

With advice from more than 200 policy experts, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to answer what has emerged as a central question of her early presidential campaign strategy: how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.

Mrs. Clinton has not had to wade into domestic policy since before she became secretary of state in 2009, and she has spent the past few months engaged in policy discussions with economists on the left and closer to the Democratic Party’s center who are grappling with the discontent set off by the gap between rich and poor. Sorting through the often divergent advice to develop an economic plan could affect the timing and planning of the official announcement of her campaign.

It’s hard to say what is more disturbing: that Clinton doesn’t know what she thinks needs to be said and done about the economy and needs 200 advisers working for months to cobble a plan together, or that she does know and is so fretful of offending wealthy donors and centrist voters that she needs to micromanage her economic policy.

One of the reasons that people love Warren is that she speaks from the heart with an instant authenticity that demonstrates a genuine understanding of what ails the economy, a knack for communicating progressive values in plain speaking, and a willingness to tell hard truths even if it offends Wall Street.

It’s more than likely that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, and that tens of millions of Americans on the left will need to grow comfortable with her if they aren’t already. But Clinton herself would do well to learn the lessons of her own 2008 campaign, John Kerry’s failure in 2004 and Mitt Romney’s failure in 2012: that voters don’t relate well to safe, micromanaged talking points devoid of energy, inspiration or authenticity.

Try to please everyone, and you end up pleasing no one.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.